Renewable Energy Events and Funding
Henderson Algae Symposium:
The University of Kentucky Center for Applied Energy Research organized the first Ohio River Valley Algae Symposium in Henderson, Kentucky August 12-13th. The symposium was co-organized with Ohio University and sponsored by: the Kentucky Department of Energy Development and Independence; Henderson Chamber of Commerce; and Henderson Fiscal Court. More than 150 people attended the day and a half symposium with 22 speakers from the algae industry, government, and academia.
Why Henderson? Why not? The University of Kentucky represents the entire state. The Henderson community welcomed us and all the attendees with open arms. The symposium was held at the Henderson Community College's Fine Arts Building, a wonderful facility for just this sort of coming together. The location made an easy drive for those interested in biomass from the vast Midwest states, as well as ours.
In addition to the professionalism of all involved in Henderson, they made it fun. The Chamber of Commerce sponsored the evening entertainment featuring a bluegrass band, a fine selection of local foods, and a presentation by Dr. Michael Speaks, Dean of UK's College of Design, who is working with the community to redesign a now defunct power plant into a pedestrian-friendly public area.
And what of the meeting itself? It proved to be a huge success. For many just entering the field, it provided an algae 101 primer. Topics and speakers ranged from a general academic base to a very pragmatic, entrepreneurial view of the emerging industry by leaders of small companies all over the U.S. Dr. Mark Crocker, CAER's Biofuels Group Associate Director, put together a diverse, interesting group of speakers.
Renewable Energy Grant:
The university just received word of a National Science Foundation award of $1.98M to convert a plant cell component to liquid fuels and chemicals, offsetting the demand for liquids currently derived from petroleum. The project targets lignin, which is part of a plant cell more energy dense than cellulose. Cellulose is another plant component and currently the main target for biofuels production. While cellulose is easily fermented to alcohol, lignin doesn't convert using existing fermentation processes. The project focus is to develop efficient and effective thermochemical methods to convert lignin to use what is now a waste stream. The researchers want to understand the chemistry of deconstructing lignin at the molecular level. They also will attempt to engineer plant cells to make it easier and less energy intensive to process lignin into fuels and chemicals.
The four-year project is based at CAER and is headed by Director Rodney Andrews. The research team includes Mark Meier of the Department of Chemistry in the College of Arts & Sciences, Seth DeBolt of the Department of Horticulture in the College of Agriculture, and Mark Crocker and Samuel Morton, both of CAER.
The project is being supported by the National Science Foundation with funding made available by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the economic stimulus program.